I daydream about ramen. I based our vacation destination decision this year on my love of ramen (Tokyo & Kyoto). I waited for a table at Ippudo for over an hour, and I wait for nothing for that long. So give me a hunk of pork belly, and there is not really any debate over what I'm going to do with it.
I'm going to braise that sucker - in soy and cinnamon and anise and maple syrup - until the aroma is driving me insane.
Then I'm going to slice it up, and lay it on top of a giant bowl of shoyu ramen, and let J-Cat think I'm listening to him tell me about his day of snowboarding while really I'm swimming in a delicious sea of porky ramen. And I can't hear much beyond a muffle when I'm under the ramen sea. Recipe after the jump:
SWEET SOY BRAISED PORK BELLY
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound boneless pork belly, cut in three equal-sized pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsps maple syrup
2 sticks cinnamon
2 whole star anise
3 allspice berries
3 1/3-inch slices peeled fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1. In a large Dutch oven or wok, heat oil and sugar over medium-high heat, swirling pot until sugar liquefies and turns a warm amber color.
2. Place pork belly slices in wok and sear on all sides, about 1 minute per side, using tongs to turn.
3. Pour enough cold water into vessel to cover the pork. Add soy sauce, maple syrup, spices, ginger, garlic, and salt. Bring to a boil and skim any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 hours, until pork is very tender and fat is easily penetrated with a spoon. If water level falls during cooking, replenish so that pork remains submerged.
4. Remove pork belly and set aside. Strain solids from braising liquid and return liquid to pan. Over high heat, reduce until lightly thickened and glossy. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
5. Slice pork into 1/4-inch thick slices. Lightly coat in reduced braising sauce. Serve atop ramen, or in steam mantou with sliced scallions and hoisin sauce.
Note: It often crack the shell on a hard-boiled egg and add it to the braise to get the lovely spiderweb soy eggs. This is an especially good addition if you are eating the pork belly atop ramen.